Recently, Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide got the entire nation buzzing. It compelled talks about suicide, depression, mental health, and stigmatization. Or so it was supposed to. It took the people all of two days, to shift the entire focus of this incident from spreading mental health awareness, to nepotism. The media and the people did the one thing they love to do: play the blame game. Instead of addressing the importance of mental health, and actively creating conversations about depression, we pointed fingers at someone else, who we consider to be the cause. The real cause of suicide still remains unrevealed.
As per the science of psychology, this is called the “scapegoating tendency”. This is a tendency in human society, in which, uncomfortable feelings like anger, jealousy, envy, guilt and shame, are displaced or redirected on to another person or group, which is usually a vulnerable minority. The “scapegoats” are then punished accordingly by the larger group, and the negative feelings felt by the larger group are diverted into becoming a sense of self-righteousness. This action does not resolve anything. All it does is, finds someone to put the blame on, so that your mind feels like it has done the right thing, and you were not at fault in any way. It is a way of denial, and self-acceptance, which always comes at the expense of someone else. We create a villain, just to look at ourselves as a hero, even though both of these are purely fictional.
The biggest example of this has been Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide. The shift of digital media’s attention from depression to blaming Bollywood directors and producers was quick, and people quickly jumped onto the blame train. Without actually being informed of facts, based on complete speculation, the general public accused them of being murderers and killers. All the grieving took a swift turn into anger. FIRs were filed, abuses were hurled, people were called names, and yet the one thing nobody addressed was the real problem we have. Mental health. And as with most outrages in this country, it lasted for a week and was soon forgotten. That is the problem with scapegoating. Feelings like anger and blame are often intense but short-lasting, and when we deflect important issues with these, the issue fails to get talked about enough.
India has been ranked 144th out of 156 countries in the Global Happiness Index in UN World Happiness Report 2020, a statistic that is depressingly low. India has the highest suicide rate in South East Asia, and while we as a society love talking about progress, development, and material happiness, we shy away from talking about real and personal happiness. We needed the death of a celebrity to realize the value of something so basic, and we did not address depression well enough even then.
Society has often linked suicide with weakness and has always thought that suicide has to have a clear cause. Depression does not always have a fixed cause. It is not a phase or a feeling. It is a disease, just like your regular Typhoid and Malaria. It has its own medication and its own ways of healing. Therapy, sharing, and talking to family and friends, medicines, exercise, and a lot more. It is extremely nuanced, and not something generic that one medicine can be prescribed for everyone. It needs to be understood and dealt with with the utmost care. For that, we as a society need to learn how and why it happens, and how literally anyone could suffer from it. Instead of labeling someone depressed as “mental” and keeping a stigma around depression, we need to come out and talk about it. None of this was talked about in the entire case of Sushant.
While there are is a certain section of society that does not want to address it, there is a huge section that tries to cure it without being properly informed. It is a good thing to let your friends and family know that you are there available for them to talk to, but we must know that therapy and psychology are sciences that professionals are trained to do. As laymen, we cannot cure strangers, like many people and influencers on social media set out to do. Like I said before, it is heavily nuanced, and if we wish to even try to understand it, we need to learn something from this entire incident. As a young generation trying to be better, we need to be aware of these psychological tendencies and learn to craft a more informed opinion by being aware of all the facts, instead of forming an opinion based on public emotion and propaganda.